One of my favorite books when I was growing up was Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. Recently, I've been reading the book with my son... and I have to say it's an incredible joy to watch him revel in the same story I love.
If you've read Burton's classic story (and chances are you have)... you may remember that Mary Anne (the steam shovel) gets stuck in the cellar and can't get out. I've always thought that the resolution to the problem is the most memorable aspect of the book.
Take a look at the paragraph where the idea is suggested by the (unnamed) little boy:
"Why couldn't we leave Mary Anne in the cellar and build the new town hall above her? Let her be the furnace for the new town hall* and let Mike Mulligan be the janitor. Then you wouldn't have to buy a new furnace, and we could pay Mike Mulligan for digging the cellar in just one day."
*Acknowledgments to Dickie Birkenbush.
Go check your copy, you'll see the asterisk. It's included in every edition of the book ever published.
Who is Dickie Birkenbush, you ask? When Burton was working on the book in 1938, she had literally written herself into a corner and didn't know how to get Mary Anne out of the Popperville town cellar. She shared her dilemma during dinner with family friends. Dick, then a child of twelve, suggested the ingenious solution of turning Mary Anne into a furnace.
In gratitude, Burton credited her young collaborator. What I think is so impressive about it, is that she did it right in the actual text, not in the acknowledgments. What an amazing way to say thank you and to give credit where it was due. (Unfortunately, she misspelled his name... the correct spelling is actually Berkenbush.)
So, in an age where plagiarism is rampant and and children's ideas aren't always taken seriously... I find what Virginia Lee Burton did to be inspiring.
To read more about Dick Berkenbush, now in his eighties, see this article from 2006 in the Boston Globe. There was also a great article about Virginia Lee Burton published in 2002 in School Library Journal. And, Houghton Mifflin, the publisher of Mike Mulligan, has a website dedicated to this classic book.
And if you haven't read Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel recently, go pick it up again. It's just as good as the first time you read it.